February Policy Digest: The Legislative Session Picks Up Steam
State Policy Update
Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council Bill Passes First Hurdle in House, Awaits Budget Hearing
COFSAC Bill Through First Legislative Challenge: Our Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council (COFSAC) bill was introduced last week and has been given an official number as HB17-1192. The bill, intended to help boost Colorado’s ability to comprehensively examine and address identified issues in our food system through a multi-disciplinary perspective, had its first hearing in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee.
The two sponsors in the House, Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran and Rep. Barbara McLachlan, spoke to the bill’s ability to connect farmers with new markets (including local schools through farm to school partnerships and low-income Coloradans through programs like Double Up Food Bucks) and help producers and retailers navigate a complicated state bureaucracy. After almost an hour and a half of testimony and rigorous questions, the committee passed the bill on 10 – 3 bipartisan vote. It will next be heard in the House Appropriations Committee.
In the Senate, our primary Senate sponsors are Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose and Rhonda Fields, a Denver Democrat. Additionally, Scott Priola, a Republican from the Northeast Metro area (Adams County), has also signed on as a co-sponsor. We are tremendously thankful for the support of the House Agriculture Committee and members of both parties in continuing this important work.
Discussions surrounding transportation funding continue between the Speaker of the House, Crisanta Duran (D) and the Senate President Kevin Grantham (R). Unfortunately, the two sides do not seem to be finding common ground. Rep. Duran is advocating for new tax dollars, most likely a sales tax increase, while Grantham believes the state should reprioritize existing dollars. LiveWell continues to work with a coalition of transportation and transit stakeholders to advocate for the inclusion of specific dollars for walking and biking. Polling was done in early January and all walk/bike/transit related question polled in the 70 percent and higher range. This is a good sign that voters care about safe access to walking and biking and that dollars should be specified to build the necessary infrastructure.
Healthy Kids Colorado Survey
The purpose of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey is to better understand youth health and what factors support youth to make healthy choices. The survey, conducted every two years, is supported by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Human Services. Earlier this week, the Joint Budget Committee voted 3-3 to remove funding for staff in the Department of Public Health and Environment to manage the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. This was not a surprise as the survey has been in the cross hairs in years past. We will work with partners to have these funds continue as the JBC works through the long budget process.
Mobile Home Parks Bill
On a party line vote, Sen. Kefalas SB17-098 was defeated last Monday. Lake County Build a Generation testified in favor of the bill, highlighting the importance of mobile home parks as an option for home ownership for many Coloradans and highlighting the importance of legislation that protects mobile home owners from retaliation for organizing within their communities.
Federal Policy Update
Congress has introduced several pieces of legislation that we are tracking. HR-203 essentially gives more flexibility to the summer food service program for children. Introduced by legislators from Alaska and Washington, it is intended to make it easier to conduct this program in rural areas. Another bill, HB-610, is a school voucher bill that also contains a provision to eliminate the school food nutrition standards. While some of these bills may gain traction in the House, they are unlikely to get a good reception in the Senate. Additionally, due to the Presidential transition and the many other issues facing Congress,, it is expected that these bills will not move quickly, if at all.